Chris Hardwick is one of those rare people who can be everywhere yet impossible to find at the same time.
Anyone familiar with the Nerdist impresario knows of his relentless work ethic as a host and personality. Even with a jam-packed schedule that somehow manages to squeeze in more gigs, Hardwick couldn’t say no to what could be his biggest challenge yet: curating his own festival.
Called ID10T Music Festival + Comic Conival, the event is shaped by Hardwick’s two decades touring and attending music and comedy festivals, and Comic-Cons.
The planning process began 18 months ago, when Rob Tweedie and Lee Loughridge of SGE approached Hardwick. The trio worked together on the Oddball Comedy Festival and more ambitious plans than a simple, one-genre event. With a background in nerd culture, Tweedie and Loughridge made Hardwick a Godfather-esque offer.
“They asked me if I wanted to do a ‘nerd festival,’ ” Hardwick recalls in between sips of a chai latte. “I wasn’t going to call it that, but I got that they got what it would be about. It was great to not have to explain to them what this world is.”
“The goal was to create something for someone like me that’s super into pop culture and comedy and all things like that,” Tweedie explains. “We wanted to take what Comic-Con does — but outdoors, into a more festive environment.”
The fest’s name isn’t a play on “idiot.” Instead, Hardwick explains, it’s stands for an ID-ten-T code which makes fun of someone without them knowing — like calling tech support to complain that your computer doesn’t work, because it’s not on.
“I love the idea that ID-ten-T means a ‘user-generated error,’ ” Hardwick says. “I bought the domain for it and always wanted to find something to use it for.”
Anyone familiar with Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast is aware that he’s at the forefront of making nerd-dom cool. ID10T gave Hardwick an opportunity to fuse his three passions — nerd culture, comedy, and music — into a singular event.
The group decided that Shoreline Amphitheater would the ideal location for the inaugural event. Having performed there with Oddball, the comedian was comfortable with the logistics that the location offered, and its proximity to Silicon Valley.
“Bay Area audiences are literate and engaged,” Hardwick says.
Assembling a diverse musical lineup featuring Hardwick pals Weezer and OK Go, the lineup is as ambitious as the curator’s tastes. With cosplay encouraged, the expansive grounds will be segmented into a dance tent curated by Diplo’s Mad Decent label, a comedy tent, an exhibition area for artists, an exhibitor village for to grab some comic-book swag, a zone for live podcast recordings, and an area where Comic-Con-esque panels will take place. Hardwick personally selected the comics and panels — he’ll moderate a select few — while weighing in on the bands’ bookings. The music won’t start until late afternoon, giving fans the opportunity to explore the panels, vendors, and comedy tents.
One panel is dedicated to cult favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000, which relaunched on Netflix. MST3K host Jonah Ray, a longtime friend of Hardwick’s and a Nerdist co-host, will be on-hand for the show’s panel and will perform in the comedy tent. Also a seasoned veteran of the festival circuit, Ray sees ID10T’s setup as a way to solve the inevitable lulls at an event of this size.
“I’m smack dab in the middle of the Venn diagram of this festival,” Ray says. “If I’m at a music festival, sometimes I wish there was something else to do outside of music. The same with a comic convention. This feels like something where you can get there early and bop around see like-minded stuff with a bunch of like-minded people. It’s going to be a neat shared experience.”
The event’s fusion of cultures appeals to the bands as well. As a self-professed nerd, TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone is intrigued by the variety of events.
“I never grew up going to festivals, but I think in this case for this event, we have some pretty strong nerd credentials,” he says of his band’s reputation. “I have fond memories of MST3K of watching it with my dad, and seeing that panel is going to be pretty cool.”
The participants are in accord that a diverse festival like this one could help usher in a new type of festival-going experience.
“Building something organically is our goal,” Tweedie says. “Part of this process has been [educating] everyone on what this animal is. This is a new concept that can really be fun and exciting for a lot of people.”
“Giving a festival an identity, a real point of view and a voice is important,” Hardwick says. “I think 10 years ago, you could put a bunch of bands together and have people go. The live business — like anything else — you need to give people a reason to put on pants, leave their house, and park their car, and pay money to do something. It challenges people like me to make stuff that’s really compelling to have five, six, or seven reasons to leave their house. Not just one.”
As for the future of the event, there’s been tepid discussion about expansion. However, that’s irrelevant until everyone sees how this year’s edition works and how it’s received within this eclectic blend of people.
“I want people to feel the community of this,” Hardwick says. “If it works, the goal would be to do one in the Midwest and East Coast. If not, then I can say I tried to do a thing and it was super-fun and I’m glad we tried.
“I just want people to feel that it’s a special, communal thing,” he adds.
ID10T Music Festival + Comic Conival, Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, at Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, $36.25-$164.50, id10tfest.com